Southeast Area Extension Says – Rain Makes Grass–In Time!

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Exciting times, we have finally received some rain in Southeast Colorado and it has covered a very large area. Amounts have varied, but everyone has received some.  Optimism for the future is looking up, especially for agriculture producers. Winter crops are growing and the future for summer crops is bright. Grass is growing for livestock producers. But a word of caution for livestock producers – does not turn out too early or stay on too long.  After the drought of the past few years, grass plants are just like humans getting over a debilitating illness, it is going to take a while to get really healthy again. In the case of grass plants, this will mean several years – at least.

As the drought progressed, in order to stay alive, the grass plant used up root reserves – they sure were not creating more with vegetative growth above ground! The longer the drought went the smaller those root reserves were and the less the plant had to live on. Just like we do when we get sick and live off of our bodies reserves until we can again take in nutrition.  Many of the native plants that are returning since the rains are very small. They are replenishing the root reserves through photosynthesis, but there is only so much replenishing they can do at one time. The longer the plant can retain the vegetative (above ground) material, the more root reserves are stored, the healthier the plant becomes. If that vegetative material is grazed off to severely, photosynthesis stops again and more root reserves are utilized to again keep the plant alive. If producers graze these plants at all in the first couple of years, they are cautioned to graze only for a very short time and leave as much leaf material as possible to aid in the plants total recovery.

The small size of the native plants also leaves room for the inclusion of noxious weeds, or weeds in general. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Many of those weeds can be grazed and are a very good feed source, depending on their stage of growth.  Besides providing a feed source for livestock they may also provide some protection from grazing to the smaller native plants, therefore allowing the native plants more time to recover from drought. Producers are cautioned though, because some of these plants may be toxic to livestock depending on the species of the plant or the stage of growth it is in.

If you are unsure or have concerns about plant identification and the affects they may have on your livestock contact your local Colorado State University Extension Office: Baca County 719-523-6971, Bent County 719-456-0764, Cheyenne County 719-767-5716, Crowley County 719-267-5243, Kiowa County 719-438-5321, Otero County 719-254-7608, Prowers County 719-336-7734.  Find us on the web at: CSU Extension offers up-to-date, unbiased, research-based information to families in Southeast Colorado. CSU Extension programs are available to all without discrimination.

Contact: Bruce Fickenscher
CSU Extension Agent
Range and Livestock

Filed Under: AgricultureBusinesscommunityCountyEconomyEducationEnergyEnvironmentFeaturedHealthMedia ReleaseProwers County


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